The dangers of Instagram diets

Instagram announced they'll restrict users 18 from seeing sponsored posts and ads promoting weight-loss products (Graphic by Alex Dascalu/AQ)

On Sept. 18, Instagram announced they would prevent users under 18 from seeing ads and sponsored posts promoting diet and weight-loss products with the introduction of a new policy.

Anna Jackson, the dietician at the University of New Brunswick Student Health Centre, said anyone with a following on social media can promote weight-loss products without knowing the damage they can cause. Most of the products advertised lead to unhealthy lifestyles.

“If [the advertisement’s] saying, ‘My Flat Tummy Tea helped me lose 10 pounds in two weeks’ … that’s a dangerous weight loss,” she said.

Jackson said most customers are unaware of some of the side effects of these products. One of the main ingredients in these weight-loss products is senna, a laxative, which causes diarrhea or stomach problems.

Weight-loss products can cause diarrhea and stomach pains, dietician Anna Jackson said (Alex Dascalu/AQ)

Jackson added the advertisements could trigger those with eating disorders and recommends unfollowing anyone who promotes these dieting products.

Hilary Foster, a third-year history major at St. Thomas University, said teenagers and women are more pressured to lose weight because of social media. While she never felt the pressure herself, she knows other young women do.

“I find weight loss gimmicks are targeted towards teen girls and women because so much emphasis is placed on us looking a certain way,” Foster said.

Rhys Dixon, a third-year student on the STU soccer team, said they’re worried about the effect these products have on some of her athletic friends who promote them.

“The way they work is not a healthy form of losing weight … To use them as a high-level athlete could make you not able to perform to your best ability.”

Dixon said by consuming one of these products, like Flat Tummy’s lollipops, it’s easier to burnout. While she felt targeted by these ads, Dixon said she didn’t feel any pressure to buy them because she felt like she had the proper knowledge on dieting products. She said these products are appetite suppressants meant to make your body lose the ability to tell you when it needs food.

Jackson said most people who see celebrities advertise these products don’t realize it’s not just the product making them look attractive, it’s a number of things from exercise to daily eating routines.

“Their life is to look the way that they do. That’s their job,” she said.

“They do have trainers, surgery, chefs. You know, they have it all.”

Still, Jackson said Instagram’s new restriction is a step in the right direction and urges students to spend their money elsewhere. Instead of dieting products, Jackson said students should focus their money and energy on a healthy, well-balanced diet.

“That’s going to benefit you way more than these kinds of products.”